Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate

May 31, 2012


“With just days to go before the kick-off of the Euro 2012 championships, Panorama reveals shocking new evidence of racist violence and anti-semitism at the heart of Polish and Ukrainian football and asks whether tournament organiser UEFA should have chosen both nations to host the prestigious event.” YouTube: 1/2, 2/2. BBC Panorama – Euro 2012 – Stadiums Of Hate (Full Episode)

BBC – Euro 2012: Stadiums of Hate
“With just days to go before the kick-off of the Euro 2012 championships, Panorama reveals shocking new evidence of racist violence and anti-Semitism at the heart of Polish and Ukrainian football and asks whether tournament organiser UEFA should have chosen both nations to host the prestigious event.” BBC

Stadiums of Hate or Sensationalist Journalism?
“Anti-Semitic chanting, monkey noises, Nazi graffiti and a former captain of England, Sol Campbell giving the juiciest of pull quotes: “Don’t go to EURO 2012, or you might come back in a coffin.” The BBC’s flagship documentary programme, Panorama, has it all. But does the documentary, broadcast to a probably horrified audience in the UK on Monday, give a true picture of how dangerous it will be for Black, Asian, or Jewish fans visiting matches in Poland and Ukraine?” New Eastern Europe

Panorama: Stadiums of Hate – a Polish fan’s response from the stands
“Crossing the line is a tough thing to do, even if you step on someone’s foot or make a mistake that hurts. When the BBC aired their Panorama: Stadiums of Hate programme just few days before Euro 2012 kicks off, one would think that the state of Polish football is determined by what is happening on the stands. And if you are to believe the programme there is Nazism, racism and anti-Semitism everywhere.” Independent


Milan – Warning Signs

May 31, 2012

“By most people’s standards Milan have just enjoyed a pretty good season. They were runners-up in the league, only behind an undefeated Juventus; they reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League before being eliminated by the mighty Barcelona; and lost in the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia. However, it was still a disappointment, as they had established a healthy lead in the race to the scudetto, and it was a backward step compared to the previous season, when they had won Serie A for the 18th time.” Swiss Ramble


Euro 2012 – The Runners & Riders: Spain

May 31, 2012

“From perennial under-achievers to perpetual favourites in considerably less than ten years, the first decade of the twenty-first century was the one that transformed the world’s perception of the Spanish national football team. Spain began the new century living very much down to people’s expectations, with a quarter-final defeat at the 2000 European Championships being followed up with a quarter-final defeat in the World Cup two years later and a first round elimination at Euro 2004. At some time around the middle of the decade, though, something clicked and Spain became all-conquering and fearsome. They matched France’s turn of the century achievement of winning the European Championships and the World Cup back-to-back – albeit in reverse order – and go into this summers finals as the favourites to win the tournament again.” twohundredpercent

For Croatia
“As has sadly become a hallmark of Slaven Bilic’s managerial reign, Croatia made tough work of their eventually successful qualification campaign. Having, as Scott Carson will no doubt remember, trumped England to the last European Championships, Croatia failed to make the cut for the 2010 South African World Cup. Here then, drawn in a relatively manageable qualification group, Croatia looked certain to shake off the blip in their progress that was 2010 and ride happily into the Ukrainian-Polish sunset. But as is often the case in qualification groups spread over long months and years, the perceived most formidable nation didn’t prevail, as seasoned underdogs and overachievers Greece, enjoying more footballing than economic success, finished top of the group.” In Bed With Maradona


ZM’s European Team of the Year 2011/12

May 31, 2012

“It’s that time of year again. Minimal explanation needed – eleven starts and eleven substitutes.” Zonal Marking


Latest Italian match-fixing scandal met with both fury and weary resignation

May 28, 2012

“With a major international football tournament on the horizon Italy has once again been seized by a huge investigation into match-fixing. As yet it hasn’t reached the magnitude of the 2006 Calciopoli affair, which presaged Italy’s World Cup triumph, but after police raided both the quarters of the national team and the home of Antonio Conte, manager of the Italian champions, Juventus, it’s set to make as least as big a splash. The roots of the latest scandal lie in the summer of 2011. After a member of Serie B side Cremonese suffered a serious car crash, tests showed that he and other members of the team had been drugged with sleeping pills.” Guardian – James Richardson

Italy’s Euro 2012 camp hit by dawn police raid
“An Italian footballer has pulled out of Italy’s national squad just days before the European football championships after he was placed under investigation in a widening match-fixing scandal. Police officers swooped on the Italian national squad’s training camp at dawn on Monday to search the room of defender Domenico Criscito and inform him that he is under investigation.” Guardian (Video)


The history of Ajax from 1945-2012

May 28, 2012

“It took just three weeks for Dutch football to get back up and running again following the country’s liberation from German occupation. The previous five years had been a harrowing period of time for the country, an experience that had afflicted an immeasurable amount of damage to its inhabitants. The decision to usher the return of football so soon after the conclusion of war was sagacious, as a need to get life back to some form of normality was required.” World Soccer


Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Denmark

May 28, 2012

“It seems inconceivable that anyone will be able to mention Denmark in relation to the European Championships without turning the clock back twenty years, to when the Danes were hastily assembled following the forced withdrawal of Yugoslavia from that summers tournament in Sweden and then went and won the entire tournament. The Danes haven’t been quite as fortunate since, but they are a team that consigned one of their group opponents in this summers tournament to a play-off place. Even though they start this tournament as the outsiders to get through the group stages, it would be foolish to merely write them off as cannon fodder for Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal.” twohundredpercent

For Denmark
“If the tournament was to be decided by experience, Denmark would win hands down. Coach Morten Olsen is preparing to lead the Danes into a major tournament for the fourth time. Few coaches in world football can compete with that record and that is a testament to the popularity of the Dane in his home land as well as the expectations placed on him that he is still seen as the man to lead the Vikings into the tournament.” In Bed With Maradona


Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Germany

May 26, 2012


“It is now sixteen years since Germany last won a major international tournament. This (perhaps surprisingly long) period of time hasn’t been without its fair share of pain, but to suggest that this is some sort of drought when when they’ve reached the World Cup final, the World Cup semi-final and the European Championship final in those intervening years would be something of a push. More interestingly, the image of the German national team has been overhauled in recent years. If the old image of the team was built upon the joyless performances of West Germany at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain and could be visualised as the seemingly perpetually growling face of Harald Schumacher, its replacement was perhaps best demonstrated by two fluid and flexible thrashings handed out in successive matches to England and Argentina in the World Cup finals two years ago. This German national team – fallible and invigorating, capable in equal measures of outstanding brilliance and handing out doses of both agony and ecstasy to its supporters – is possibly the most eagerly anticipated of all sixteen competitors at this summers tournament.” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Portugal
“It would be a stretch to call Portugal under-achievers, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to suggest that they could be considered the nearly men of European international football. This is a country which has periodically come close in recent years to winning a major trophy without actually lifting one, but the development of football in Portugal to even this point has come after decades of being considered a relative backwater in international terms, even though its biggest clubs have been winning trophies at the highest level since the nascent years of pan-continental club football. This summer, however, a fiendish draw and the ongoing suspicion that the team has the unfortunate ability to not live up to the sum of its parts may mean that its involvement in the European Championships could be curtailed early.” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012 – The Runners & Riders: The Netherlands
“With the benefit of hindsight, there seems something inevitable about the crowning of Spain as the world champions in South Africa two years ago. Yet the Netherlands came within minutes of taking the match to a penalty shoot-out and since then have continued the form that they demonstrated, becoming, in August of last year, only the second team in the history of the game to reach number one in FIFAs world rankings without having won the tournament. The Dutch team remains one of the favourites to win this summer’s competition, but the side that fought – in some respects literally – its way to the finals of the World Cup won few friends on the way, and represented something of a break with the in some ways idealistic traditions of the team with its defensive and aggressive system.” twohundredpercent


The myth of football management

May 26, 2012

“Once a turnip, now reincarnated as a goldfish. Suppose they’re roughly the same colour. At the back end of 2010 few people would have predicted that come the end of the following season Roy Hodgson would be announcing his first England squad on the day his successor at Anfield, Kenny Dalglish, was being handed his P45 by the Fenway Sports Group.” World Soccer


The final Friday night

May 26, 2012

“In the end it was an enjoyable Spanish cup final, if not a spectacular game. Barcelona’s first-half performance saw to that, and Athletic just didn’t have the necessary artillery to turn the game around. It’s as if they peaked when they defeated Manchester United, and have never really got back to that level of performance. Their league campaign finished poorly, and they lost both their finals – but of course they should be commended for having reached them. Pep Guardiola said as much, in that generous way he has with other teams, in the post-match press-conference. It’s been a memorable season for them, their first under ‘El Loco’ Marcelo Bielsa, and maybe their last, since there is still no definitive news as to what the great enigma has decided to do next season.” ESPN


For Poland

May 25, 2012


“Erm, they voted for Michel Platini! It’s widely reported that the tournament hosting rights were handed to Poland and Ukraine as a ‘thank you’ from Platini, for the Eastern European national football associations voting for him in the UEFA Presidential Elections. As the co-hosts, Poland haven’t had to qualify for the tournament; and therefore have not played a competitive game since their World Cup Qualifying loss to Slovakia back in October 2009!” In Bed With Maradona

For Ukraine
“Ukraine have managed to sneak their way into the competition via the backdoor, due to the fact that they automatically gained a place upon UEFA accepting their bid to jointly host the tournament. Being the host nation of a major international tournament allows for the enjoyment of vociferous local support as well as the comfort of taking to the pitch in familiar surroundings and climes. Such advantages are well documented and for Ukraine this situation could well play into their hands.” In Bed With Maradona

For Russia
“The Russian journey to (relatively) nearby Poland and Ukraine should, by all rights, have been a relatively comfortable one. Only the Republic of Ireland looked like posing them any real threat in a fairly lightweight group, and so domestic expectations were high, especially given the national side’s impressive outing at the last European Championships. However, when a routine victory over Andorra in the opening match was followed by a defeat to Slovakia on home soil, the alarm bells began to ring. A controlled 3-2 win in Ireland and a gritty 1-0 over FYR Macedonia may have steadied the ship, but when the side travelled to Armenia and emerged only with an insipid goalless draw to show for their efforts, the media sharpened their knives for Dick Advocaat and his men – the manager was clueless, star player Andrei Arshavin was past it, and the team didn’t care.” In Bed With Maradona

For Italy
“Beginning with straight-forward wins over Estonia and Faroe Islands as well as a hard-fought draw with Northern Ireland at Windsor Park, Italy’s relatively simple path to Poland and Ukraine was all but sealed when Serbian Ultra’s caused their game in Genoa to be called off. Eventually awarded as a 3-0 win to the home side, it saw Cesare Prandelli’s men take a virtually unassailable lead at the top of the standings which they would never relinquish. Dropping just four points and scoring twenty goals while conceding just twice, it was one of the most dominant qualification campaigns the Azzurri have ever enjoyed. While the quality of the opposition can be called into question – as Republic of Ireland’s dismantling of second placed Estonia in the playoffs clearly attests – Italy should rightly be a team to fear once the tournament proper gets underway.” In Bed With Maradona

For Ireland
“It wouldn’t really be a Republic of Ireland qualifying campaign without a trip to the playoffs. Thankfully there was no repeat of the heartache suffered against France in the qualifiers for the last World Cup as Estonia were easily dealt with 5-1 over the two legs. Ireland finished second in a tricky group which also featured Russia, Armenia, Slovakia, Macedonia, and Andorra. They lost only once, at home to the Russians, but conceded just seven goals as Giovanni Trapattoni defensive mindedness came out on top as it has done many times in the past.” In Bed With Maradona


Chelsea F.C.: Can’t Buy Me Love

May 25, 2012

“If you take the long view with Chelsea — the view that starts on the day Roman Abramovich first wrote his name on the club in 2003 — the amazing thing isn’t that they won the Champions League but that they won it the way they did — as underdogs, riding on luck and drama. Consider…” Grantland – Run of Play


Juan Román Riquelme and Boca have the final word – just for a change

May 25, 2012

“Juan Román Riquelme never changes. He is the eternal question at the heart of Argentinian football, the solemn-faced representative of a romanticised former age constantly rebuking the present for not being quite as graceful, quite as thoughtful, as he is.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


INITUM CALCITRO – the New eBook & How You Can Help

May 23, 2012


“Time to let the cat out of the bag: a second eBook may soon be on the way. After the modest success of ‘An Illustrated Guide’ and extensive talks with Erik Ebeling, the artist from said guide, I have decided to try and tackle a much more daunting topic: the first 100 years of history of Real Madrid & Barcelona. I’ve sketched the concept, done some research, and even put finger to keyboard on a few sections. However, there’s one tiny problem. Luckily, though, you can help.” Futfanatico (Video)


Drogbacité

May 23, 2012

“There are some matches that end up seeming primarily the vehicle for one person to somehow attain mythical status. The Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern was written, it seems now, purely to allow Didier Drogba a form of poetic catharsis worthy of fiction or film. The fact that Chelsea won was itself a kind of oddity, for throughout the game it seemed the most unlikely of outcomes. But as he had against Barcelona, Drogba became the master of the unruly and the absurd: none of what the other team did, not of the great passing and possession and continual shots on goal, mattered in the end. Just Drogba did, his head and then his foot.”


For the Netherlands

May 23, 2012

“With relative ease. In Klaas-Jan Huntelaar – a player revitalised since his move to Schalke and the first Dutchman to top the Bundesliga scoring charts – the Dutch had the qualifying campaign’s top scorer. Huntelaar bagged twelve, three more than Miroslav Klose and a mile ahead of the rest, even though he only got two of the 11 the Netherlands put past the hapless San Marino in Eindhoven. Key results were a brace of 1-0 wins over Moldova – ever the proverbial banana skin – a 4-1 win over Sweden in Amsterdam where Huntelaar and Ibrahim Afellay both scored twice and a thrilling 5-3 win over Hungary. Having gone to Budapest four days previously and won 4-0, the return in Amsterdam saw Robin van Persie give the Dutch an early lead. By the time the second half was five minutes old, Hungary led. Wesley Sneijder levelled and Ruud van Nistelrooy restored the lead, but within minutes Zoltan Gera’s second squared it up again. The Dutch kicked on and two late Dirk Kuyt goals sealed a crucial win.” In Bed With Maradona


Bayern 1-1 Chelsea: Chelsea win it on penalties

May 20, 2012


“Chelsea lifted the European Cup after a tight match was decided on penalties. Jupp Heynckes named his expected line-up: Diego Contento came into the side at left-back, Antoliy Tymoshchuk played at centre-back, with Toni Kroos deep in midfield, allowing Thomas Muller a start in the attacking role. Roberto Di Matteo’s line-up featured one surprise name – Ryan Bertrand was given his Champions League debut on the left side of midfield, meaning Florent Malouda was only on the bench. The tactical battle didn’t really go Chelsea’s way – but the penalty shoot-out did.” Zonal Marking

Chelsea’s unlikely triumph a testament to Di Matteo’s tactics
“Sometimes football simply doesn’t make sense. The cliché that a club’s name is on a trophy can’t have any truth, and yet it was hard during Chelsea’s Champions League final victory not to feel it had some greater power behind it. Perhaps Chelsea’s players came to feel that as well: how else can you explain Didier Drogba finding an equalizer with two minutes remaining? How else can you explain Petr Cech’s penalty save on Arjen Robben? How else can you explain how it came from behind in a shootout (Drogba netting the clincher) to beat, of all things, a German side in Germany, in front of the Bayern Munich fans, while going second?” SI – Jonathan Wilson

Chelsea claim Champions League glory
“Chelsea won the Champions League final on German soil as they beat Bayern Munich 4-3 on penalties after the game finished 1-1 in normal time. Bayern had much the better of the game, missed numerous chances in the first-half and were made to wait until the 83rd minute for the opener when Thomas Muller appeared at the back post to head past Petr Cech.” ESPN

Chelsea win Champions League on penalties over Bayern Munich
“These are the moments Chelsea will always cherish and never forget. They gave everything and finally, when it was all done, they had the European Cup in their possession and a night that will go straight in at No1 in their list of great triumphs from the Roman Abramovich era. It was a rare form of euphoria on a night when, just like Moscow four years ago, it came down to the gut-wrenching drama of a penalty shootout. At one stage Bayern Munich were leading 3-1 and the Chelsea players stood in line, heads bowed, fearing the worst. Juan Mata’s effort had been saved by Manuel Neuer and at that point Roberto Di Matteo’s players knew they were on the brink of walking past the European Cup and not being allowed to touch the silver.” Guardian


Leeds United – Marching On Together?

May 20, 2012

“So another season passes with Leeds United failing in their attempt to return to the top flight. Having narrowly missed out on the play-off places the previous season, hopes were high that this could be their year, but the Whites went backwards, ending up in the bottom half of the Championship. Poor results resulted in the January dismissal of manager Simon Grayson, who had guided the team out of League One two years ago, to be replaced by the experienced Neil Warnock.” Swiss Ramble


It’s Time To Move Forward, As One

May 20, 2012

“I can’t stand the noise. Please, make it stop. In the old days we wanted Liverpool FC to do its business in private and only release it to the world when it was complete. Now, in life in general, no news is bad news. Indeed, no news is terrible news. No news is an excuse for mass hysteria. I’ve been guilty of it, too; Twitter, in particular, does that to you. You stare at the screen as it updates … and still no news! It’s been five seconds! Refresh, refresh.” Tomkins Times


Bayern Munich: A model franchise

May 17, 2012


“The annual Super Bowl of world soccer is finally here. Saturday’s UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Chelsea (2:45 p.m. ET, FOX) may lack the sexiness of recent European finals — neither team finished at the top of its own domestic league, after all — but I still think this should be a highly entertaining contest.” SI


Euro 2012 – The Runners & Riders: The Czech Republic

May 17, 2012

“One could forgive the Czech Republic for being a little circumspect in their preparations for the 2012 European Championships. Having failed to qualify for the World Cup finals again two years ago – they’ve only qualified for one World Cup finals since the division of the Czechoslovakia’s national football team split into two early in 1994 – their qualification for this European Championships was modest and unspectacular. They scored only twelve goals in their eight qualifying matches, of which they lost three including a home defeat in their opening match against Lithuania. With Spain winning the group by an almost inhumane eleven points, the Czech Republic squeezed through to the finals with a comfortable win against Montenegro.” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – Russia
“The Russian national team could be forgiven for treating all matches up to the 2018 World Cup finals as a warm up for that competition. After all, the amount of money being spent on the first tournament to be held in the country will be vast and expectations amongst the Russian public will be accordingly high. Russia, however, have spent most of the last two decades or so since the break-up of the Soviet Union singularly failing to set the world of international football alight and there is little to suggest that this summer will see a significant improvement from them.” twohundredpercent


Wigan stay up after a switch to 3-4-3

May 17, 2012

“The surprise package in the second half of Premier League season was the only side who switched to a back three on a permanent basis. It seems odd to trace Roberto Martinez’s successful experiment with a three-man defence back to an eight-goal defeat, but that’s where we’re going to start. On the final day of the 2009/10 season, Wigan travelled to Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea needed a win to make sure of the Premier League title. Chelsea won 8-0.” Zonal Marking


An impressive new stadium cannot hide rotten core of Romanian football

May 17, 2012

“The new Arena Nationala in Bucharest is magnificent. Its steep sides – the steepest permissible according to European law, apparently – are conducive to a good atmosphere, it’s near enough the centre of town to make access relatively simple and the early teething problems with the pitch have been sorted out. After all the problems over funding and all the delays, Romania has ended up with a national stadium to be proud of. Sitting in the press box for last week’s Europa League final – plug sockets and televisions aplenty, Ethernet cables at every seat – it was hard to believe this was the same city I first visited 11 years earlier.” Guardian – Jonathan Wilson


‘Daddy’s Crying’

May 17, 2012


“For nearly three years, I’ve been giving myself the same speech. Since my one and only heartbreaking trip to Old Trafford in the fall of 2009, it’s been the go-to pep talk for the voices inside my head. Having supported Manchester City since the age of 11, finally daring to step inside Manchester United’s famous ground as a 40-year-old and then being forced to witness City lose a soul-crushing classic to a Michael Owen goal that made it 4-3 nearly two minutes after the final whistle should have been blown, this became my mantra: Nothing can ever hurt me again.Grantland


The Premier League Is Sensational

May 17, 2012

“Like everyone else, I blacked out when Manchester City scored two goals in stoppage time to snatch the Premier League title from Manchester United. In my case, I woke up three days later, in a bathtub full of ice. My right kidney was missing, and a piece of paper containing the following text was folded in my hand. I have no idea what to make of this.” Grantland – Run of Play


Sacked Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish will never walk alone

May 17, 2012

“Kenny Dalglish walked away from Anfield yesterday but he knows he will never walk alone. For all the mistakes he made, for all the poor PR, misguided handling of the Luis Suárez saga and the meagre league form, Dalglish’s love affair with Liverpool will never end. He may have gone but the fans will still sing his name.” Telegraph – Henry Winter


The best eleven

May 15, 2012


Joe Hart, Manchester City
“To change an old football cliché slightly, this was a season of two halves. The likes of Demba Ba and Jose Enrique were superb before Christmas but then faded badly, while Papiss Cisse and Paul Scholes had a superb impact but played only in the second half of the campaign. Then there are players like Lucas Leiva and Alejandro Faurlin, who excelled early on but saw their seasons end prematurely due to injury. This season, more than any other, highlighted the importance of consistency. With that being a crucial consideration, here is a Premier League team of the season, complete with two backups at each position.” ESPN


This Week in Mario Balotelli: The Spirit of a Champion

May 15, 2012

“Manchester City’s improbable Premier League title is a story of redemption. A few weeks ago City looked to have blown their chance at the trophy, blowing a sizable lead with a string of middling performances and dropped points. For the squad to end up with ultimate glory, they had to display a great deal of resolve and character. During much of that stretch, they played without enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli. Depending on who you ask, that was a positive rather than a negative. When we last left our hero, he had earned a red card (and really should have been sent off after about 20 minutes) in a 1-0 loss at Arsenal. His manager claimed he’d never play for the club again and essentially deemed him unmanageable. Pundits all over the globe said he wasn’t the kind of player who wins clubs titles.” The Classical (YouTube)


A season in statistics: the Premier League campaign in numbers

May 15, 2012

“Joey Barton doesn’t need legal aid but we typical Guardian do-gooders are going to give him free advice anyway. When he appears in front of the FA Committee of Investigation into Sustained Attacks on All and Sundry following the misunderstanding in Manchester on Sunday, Barton might try to curry sympathy among the powers-that-be by pointing out that Opta statistics show that, despite incurring a record-equalling nine red cards, Queens Park Rangers were the most fouled team in the Premier League this season. And Barton was their most fouled player.” Guardian


Euro 2012: The Runners And Riders – Greece

May 13, 2012


The Battle of Aboukir, Antoine-Jean Gros
“There is now less than a month to go until the European Championships kick off in Poland and Ukraine, and taking on the co-hosts in the opening match will be a nation that caused arguably the biggest surprise in the history of the competition: Greece. But with a new coach and having caused something of a surprise just to reach the last sixteen of this tournament, can Greece roll back the years to the summer of 2004?” twohundredpercent

Euro 2012: The Runners And Riders – Poland
“With slightly less than a month to go until the start of the 2012 European Championships, it’s time for us to kick off our previews of the sixteen nations that will be competing at this summer’s tournament in Poland and Ukraine. We’re doing this in order of the groups drawn, so we’ll start with everything you probably don’t need to know about one of this summer’s co-hosts, Poland.” twohundredpercent


Homage to Guardiola

May 13, 2012

“Pep Guardiola liked to remind his players to have fun. Under normal circumstances, ‘go out there and have fun’ is the emptiest sort of yapped-around-a-whistle coachspeak, but with Guardiola “normal circumstances” often felt like something more profound, and also stranger, than that: He made you believe that he meant it. He had the very disorienting gift of making banal sentiments seem to come from a place of deep soulfulness. Whether he was actually banal or actually soulful was a problem you could think yourself dizzy trying to solve,1 but either way he brought results: His Barcelona teams, especially during their astounding three-year run from 2008 to 2011, ran on a kind of sustained collective joy that was thrilling to watch precisely because it seemed so sincere.” Grantland

Homage to Barcelonia
“It is January 25, 1939. You reside in what is left of Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War has raged for several years. At night, the bombs fall. Franco’s forces have surrounded and strangled your beloved city, Within, moral and societal decay have gripped the institutions you loved. At first, democracy was the war cry. Viva la Republica! Then, the anarchists arose and spoke of the need to collectivize, collectivize, collectivize. Then, the Stalinists sprang up and called for nationalization. The summary executions of suspected Franco sympathizers made you feel uneasy. Now, the anarchists and Stalinists shoot one another in broad daylight. Food and water have disappeared. Retreating Republic forces burn warehouses & offices before fleeing to France. When Franco’s forces arrive the next day, chills run up and down your spine. To your astonishment, people take to the streets and cheer and applaud and wave and welcome their arrival. You weep quietly.” Run of Play


Turkish Football’s Dirty War

May 13, 2012

“Do you know what hate, in its essence and heart-wrenching ugliness, truly is? Not only the concept of genuinely disliking something with every fibre of your being, but the sensation of slowly falling into a black hole filled to its brink with unhealthy, dirty thoughts? It is a feeling that, when activated deep below our day-to-day, unextraordinary consciousness, completely robs us of our humanity and compassion. It brings out the worst in us. Basically, hatred is what keeps Turkish football in 2011-2012 alive.” Run of Play


Saying goodbye to the Camp Nou: FC Barcelona 4 – 0 RCD Espanyol

May 12, 2012


“…and that was Pep’s last match at the Camp Nou. What a way to go out, huh? Fans at every corner of the stadium, holding up signs with goodbye messages, 4 goals from Messi, a team hug to celebrate the 4th goal and a beautiful send off from the players and coaching team once the match ended.” The Offside


Liverpool And Chelsea: Is Cup Success Papering Over The Cracks?

May 12, 2012

“A club’s ability to win silverware, whether it is Chelsea or Liverpool, has always been used by both fans and pundits as a litmus test for measuring footballing success but, as is often the case, this season’s Premier League success stories have in fact come from many of the teams whose trophy cabinets’will remain empty this year.” Sabotage Times

Liverpool 4 Chelsea 1: In-Depth Tactical Analysis
“This is the 32nd meeting between Liverpool and Chelsea in the past eight seasons, more than any other fixture in any eight year period in English football history. Liverpool have won five of the last seven Premier League meetings between the teams, and the last three in a row.” Tomkins Times


Visions Of Capitalism: Twenty-First Century Football, The Premier League & Manchester

May 12, 2012

“By tomorrow evening, half of Manchester – a phrase that in itself provokes so much debate that it is worth pointing out that it is being used for the purposes of simplicity alone – will be celebrating a Premier League championship victory. Either Manchester City or Manchester United will be crowned as the champions of England. That such a set of circumstances should have come about on the final day of the season is a situation that has likely caused Peter Scudamore to make some faintly obscene gurgling noises over the last couple of weeks or so, but it has also sparked a debate over the nature of Manchester City’s sudden, testosterone-fuelled rise to the summit of the game, a rise fuelled by the money of the Abu Dhabi United group.” twohundredpercent


The Reducer, Week 36: You Take the Champagne

May 10, 2012


“This coming Sunday we will all be overwhelmed by an overwhelming amount of Premier League football. I’m seriously overwhelmed just thinking about it all. All the Premier League teams will take part in matches, all kicking off at the same time so that no competitive advantage can be had by any one club. We’ll get to Manic Sunday in a bit, but for now, let’s take a different kind of look at this past weekend’s proceedings: three snapshots of three goals in three games that hugely impacted the Premier League’s second-to-last weekend.” Grantland (YouTube)
The Reducer, Week 35: Manchester Civil War (YouTube)


Slav to the rhythm – A Balkan adventure – part 1

May 10, 2012

“It’s 1am and the train’s grinding on the rough rails is keeping me awake. We are chugging somewhere between Zagreb and Belgrade. We could be in Croatia, we could we be in Serbia. But we actually have no idea at all where we are. Conversations have moved on from about how this train is like the one on ‘Hostel’ to ‘what happened if they had a Saw-esque sadist on this train’..all the kind of conversations you want to have when you are in one of the remotest places in Europe with no mobile phone signal. The single 5 watt bulb is too dim for me to read my latest inductee into my sportbook review section, an excellent book called Danger, Kids! by Alan Moore which tells the story of an ambitious plan to re-unite Europe through football, a mission the carriage carries as its mantra for the weekend.” The Ball is Round: Slav to the rhythm – A Balkan adventure – part 1, Part 2


Premier League 2011-12 review of the season

May 10, 2012

“Marcus Christenson: Is it more difficult to take Newcastle to the brink of the Champions League or Manchester City to the brink of the title?” Guardian


Manchester City and the Llorente Dzeko Parallel

May 10, 2012

“Football suffers from anterograde amnesia. There tends to be an overriding trend amongst lovers of the Beautiful Game to live in the moment, focusing on the last match to evaluate the progress of an individual or a team. Harry Redknapp has been labelled as the nation’s saviour one minute before being described as an intransigent squad rotator who may have destroyed Spurs’ hopes of Champions League qualification the next. It is funny how a consecutive victories or defeats can shift public opinion so quickly. Athletic Bilbao have attracted unanimous praise for the way they have stylishly steered their way into the Europa League final against Atlético Madrid in Bucharest.” In Bed With Maradona


Lords of the dance

May 10, 2012


“Rashidi Yekini has died at a tragically early age, but in his all-too-brief time on earth he certainly left his mark. He will be remembered all over the globe not just for scoring Nigeria’s first ever World Cup goal (against Bulgaria in USA 94), but also – perhaps more – for the way he celebrated. One of the lasting images of the tournament is that of Yekini gripping the back of the net and then forcing his arms through the holes as he yelled out his thanks to the heavens. It was a beautiful moment because there was nothing contrived about it. It was a genuine, spontaneous show of deep emotion.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Dortmund must roll with changes for success in Champions League

May 10, 2012

“Borussia Dortmund has made a fine habit out of getting there first — whether the “there” in question is the ball or a particularly useful player. But for once, the new and old German champions will have to wait. Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa has told the club he will not decide on extending his contract (beyond summer 2013) until after the DFB Cup final against Bayern Munich on May 12.” SI


Support still swells for Suarez

May 10, 2012

“Gus Poyet was recently remembering the advice he received when he joined Chelsea 15 years ago. ‘I had a team-mate at Zaragoza who had spent four or five years in England and he told me all the things that I shouldn’t do,’ he said to the Uruguayan press.” BBC – Tim Vickery


Liverpool – Keep The Car Running

May 8, 2012


“This has been a strange season for Liverpool. On the one hand, they have won their first trophy since 2006 by beating Cardiff City to secure the Carling Cup, which guarantees them European football next season, and have the chance of more silverware, having reached the FA Cup final. On the other hand, their form in the Premier League has been disappointing to say the least and they currently lie in eighth place, which is far below the expectations of their fans.” Swiss Ramble

Chelsea 2-1 Liverpool: Chelsea lift the trophy
“Chelsea won their fourth FA Cup in the last six years. Roberto Di Matteo went for his usual 4-2-3-1 system with no real surprises – Didier Drogba was upfront and Saloman Kalou got the nod on the left. Kenny Dalglish left out Andy Carroll and went for a 4-3-3 system with Luis Suarez upfront alone. There was also no place for Jamie Carragher at the back. This was basically two completely separate games – Liverpool before Carroll, and Liverpool with Carroll.” Zonal Marking

England appoint Roy Hodgson
“If the decision was between Harry Redknapp and Roy Hodgson, England were choosing between two very different coaches. The debate should not have been about ‘experience at big clubs’ or ‘how much the players like him’, but about the style of coach required: in Redknapp and Hodgson, the FA were choosing between two men at complete opposite ends of the football coach’s ideological spectrum, the most stark contrast of managerial philosophies you can find.” Zonal Marking


Ajax: the early years and the birth of Total Football

May 8, 2012

“Known in the Netherlands as ‘de Godenzonen’, a name that translates into English as ‘the sons of the Gods,’Ajax Amsterdam has, for the majority of their 112 year history, carried with them an almost messianic status, not only in their home nation, but across the world football spectrum.” World Soccer


Inter 4-2 Milan: Inter build up play down the left, then spread it to the right

May 8, 2012

“This was a rather eventful Milan derby – not only were there six goals (including three penalties), but the result confirmed Juventus as Serie A champions. The game was frantic, open and often lacking any kind of shape or structure, which was completely unexpected when the line-ups were announced – it set to be a battle of two narrow, functional 4-3-1-2s.” Zonal Marking


Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United: City work the ball down right, United fail to test Hart

May 8, 2012

“Vincent Kompany’s header won the game – and City returned to the top of the league. As expected, Roberto Mancini named an unchanged XI. That meant Pablo Zabaleta continuing at right-back, and Samir Nasri starting wide in midfield. Sir Alex Ferguson switched formation to a 4-5-1 with Wayne Rooney upfront alone. Ryan Giggs and Park Ji-Sung were given starts in in midfield, while Nani was used rather than Antonio Valencia on the right. Jonny Evans was ill and Rafael was dropped, so Chris Smalling and Phil Jones were at the back.” Zonal Marking


The Truth About Debt At Barcelona And Real Madrid

May 8, 2012

“Despite their failure to reach next month’s Champions League final, Barcelona and Real Madrid are by common consent the best two club sides in world football. Featuring superstars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, their talented players entertain and delight us in equal measure, as they dominate La Liga season after season. However, admiration of their exploits is tempered by the financial advantages that they enjoy compared to other less fortunate clubs.” Swiss Ramble